For the last 2 months, most of us have led dramatically quieter lives at home. Others have had to deal with the coronavirus crisis in a more serious way, with loved ones getting affected. In times like these, I turn to my wife, Roopi, who is the self-proclaimed “Minister of Fun” in our house. In spite of her serious job working with an NGO, where she has been organizing rations for families in slum communities and hearing about their struggles, she manages to create joy and fun in our family, even in the most unusual of circumstances. Having fun is an important component for her state of mind and happiness. She needs to have some lighter moments every day to feel alive. She wrote a piece 4 years ago for this blog: Take Laughing Seriously. So, I asked her again to write about how she has continued to create joy and meaning, even now.
Please read on:
In every family, there is one person who sets the mood of the whole house. I realized early on in my motherhood journey, for better or for worse, that I was that person. During the early days of lockdown, the kids turned to me to learn how to navigate the uncertainty, organize their lives, their schoolwork and take breaks. We came up with a schedule that allowed everyone to finish their work, socialize with their friends online, play games as a family, exercise so we could eat record-breaking amounts of ice cream, take spontaneous Bollywood dance breaks so we could laugh at each other, and most importantly – reach out to our family elders every day. Elders are greater risk at this time and are feeling the weight of this lockdown. The kids announced who was “in charge” of which elder and took their roles very seriously with a daily video call. What started out as a way to give love quickly became (as it always does) a way to receive love, and an important way to bring purpose and meaning to their days.
It was day 36 of lockdown, and I had the exciting task to plan a birthday for our almost 8-year-old, Imara, during lockdown. Along with my own birthday 3 days later. I love birthdays (mine and everyone else’s too) and like to create some excitement around them. For Imara, I wanted to come up with a way for her to be happily occupied on her birthday for the entire day – finding small gifts to hunt around the house, collecting love and blessings from everyone who loves her. I set up a massive word search with the names of all our close friends and family. They were all given a country assignment and had to give her clues so she could guess that country. Once she guessed properly, they would give her a part of the next clue that would lead to finding 8 small presents hidden around the house (all bought from the local kirana store). She had to call about 20 people (across the world), get fussed over and wished, play the country guessing game, write down the clue they gave and move on to the next person. Then, she had to unscramble the clues to find the presents. The whole family got involved in making the word search, coming up with countries, calling everyone to tell them what they had to do, hiding the gifts etc. At the end of the day, she asked if we could have a lockdown birthday party every year, since it was the best one ever!
Next came my birthday. As an extrovert and someone who derives energy from social interaction and friendships, I was craving connection with my friends. With everyone weathering the coronavirus storm in a different way, I wanted to see all their faces, but also have something fun to do with them. I decided on 3 birthday challenges (a TikTok dance, a painting recreation and a Bollywood/Hollywood scene act). I sent off messages to friends and family all over the world to join my birthday challenge, and submit photos and videos. All participants would get a Zoom invite and the chance to see everyone’s silly submissions and share a laugh. Little did I know how much excitement and joy it would create. As I started receiving the submissions, I knew that there was as much fun behind the scenes as well. My respectable, important, accomplished, grown-up friends were willing to put aside their mature selves and prance around to be silly for me. What more could I want for my birthday?! Our Zoom party was the cutest birthday ever with friends and family (ages 8 to 83), connected only by me and by my birthday challenges. We all laughed so much at each other and ourselves. Everyone got to meet people they had only heard about from me. No one left their homes, no one spent a penny, and we were all filled with that warm, ecstatic feeling of joyful connection.
In these uncertain times, when we don’t know what the next day could bring us, appoint the “Minister of Fun” for your family.
Dance around the house. Picnic in the living room. Have Zoom parties with your friends and elders regularly. The memories we create from our lockdown days for ourselves and our families is certainly something we can control.
Many thanks to Roopi for sharing her perspectives and more importantly, for tolerating me over the last few weeks!
For many of us, the lockdown can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. How long will it last? How will we ever get out of this situation? This can (and most likely will) create a lot of helplessness and confusion. Through all of this, finding ways to maintain physical distance, but being socially closer and connected, will provide you with tremendous strength. Your family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbours can have a deep impact on your physical and mental health. During this time, while you are physically apart, it is important to not disconnect from them. In fact, now is the time to come together closer than ever before.
Use this time to enrich your connections. Build stronger friendships, nurture deeper love with your family, and develop a stronger appreciation of your children as they cope with the realities of a lockdown. Learn to accept each other for who you are. And take the time to embrace the things that we take for granted. Through finding joy with each other and building deeper connections, we will come out of this, stronger and better.
Do share your lockdown stories of building connections and finding joy.
*The image for this blog was created by Janya Gambhir, Vivek Gambhir’s daughter.